Everything Old Is New Again. Logitech Introduces C920s HD Pro Webcam.

Our friends a Logitech made some news recently. They introduced the C920s HD Pro Webcam. This model is a minor respin of their older C920, which was and remains, the most popular webcam in the world, despite the introduction of several new models.

C920S-frontal

What’s changed vs the older variant? Not much. The “s” in the C920s name supposedly denotes stereo microphones, which should impact almost no-one. It also has an external privacy shutter. That’s a nice thing. In the past those concerned about privacy bought one of these after-market solutions.

It’s curious to compare the C920s to the C922x Pro Stream Webcam which was introduced around 18 months ago. These two models are very similar. The major technical difference is the fact that the C922x can deliver 720p at 60 frames/second, which is potentially of interest to the game streaming crowd.

C920s vs C922x

From a bundling point of view the C920s gets the external privacy shutter, while the C922x comes with a 3 month trial of XSplit.

The C922x originally included a copy of Personify’s Chromacam. I’m told that offer has been withdrawn. I tinkered with ChromaCam but found it less than useful.  Such a tool trades performance for the convenience of not having to setup and light a green screen. I’ve rarely seen an acceptable result.

Xsplit now offers VCam, which is their own freestanding background removal tool.

I accept that my opinion may be harsh. It’s informed by direct experience with Ultimatte and broadcast production switchers in a past life.

The biggest change brought by the new model is the fact that it’s sold as UVC compliant. The old C920, while basically UVC compliant, by default installed a Logitech driver. That driver did not allow more than one camera to be used per computer. The XSplit team found that the Logitech driver leaned hard on the CPU, which was a problem for gamers streaming their game play.

It was trivially easy to hack Windows into treating the C920 as a generic UVC webcam. I did this so long ago I can’t even remember how. Happily, if you buy the C920s you won’t have to. The C920s will simply appear via the built-in UVC driver of your host OS.

While no driver is required, Logitech now offers their Capture application, which I intend to examine on its own. A Windows version of Capture was released into beta in Q4-2018, with a Mac version planned for later this year.

I suppose it was inevitable that such a successful product could not simply be retired. Logitech’s venerable C920 webcam lives on as the C920s, at a reduced price and with updated supporting software.

 

Videomaker Reviews the NewTek NDI HX-PTZ1 Camera

Not long ago I openly admitted that I wear the rants in the family. This goes along those lines. It was inspired by the Chris Monlux’s review of the NewTek NDI HX-PTZ1 Camera published January 14th by Videomaker Magazine. I found this review to be deeply disappointing, and I’d like to tell you why.

First, take the time to read their review. I’ll wait. And you need the context.

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NDI-to-HDMI on the cheap?

There is no question that Newtek’s NDI is rocking the world of video production. Whether in corporate video, educational video, live streaming or low-end broadcast, it allows a transition to IP transport that’s profoundly attractive in many ways.

NDI delivers high quality video at very low latency, under one frame of video. A 1080p60 NDI stream requires at most around 150 mbps. This is ideal for production applications, which are quite separate from transmission/delivery, where lower bitrates are preferred and some seconds of delay is tolerable.

ClueCon NDI Feed on Monitor

In the early days of NDI, if you needed to view an NDI signal on a monitor that required a Windows PC running NDI Studio Monitor. This is an application that can pick the stream off the network and display it on a monitor. It has some nice features, like the ability to overlay a second stream (picture-in-picture) and show audio metering.

I used this approach at Cluecon 2018, with a very small PC purchased just for the task (pictured above.)

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Review: Logitech’s Brio 4K Webcam Pro

My how time flies. It hard to believe that I’ve had Logitech’s Brio 4k Webcam Pro in my office for well over a year. While I reported some cursory observations here and here, I’ve yet to give it a proper review…until now.

Brio is Logitech’s first 4K webcam.

As you may recall, I was quite eager to get my hands on a next-generation webcam. I had high hopes for what might be possible using a faster USB 3 connection to the host and a more modern sensor. Brio certainly addresses those areas and more.

My initial evaluation of Brio stalled for quite some time. At that time neither my desktop nor laptop, both a circa 2013, were up to the task of handling 4k video in real-time. While I was using Brio every week, I wasn’t properly able to exercise the little beast.

Happily, the eventual purchase of the Airtop-PC has provided a more than capable host platform. The Airtop has the CPU, GPU and connectivity necessary to cope with 4K video without breaking a sweat. Or making a peep.

Further, as part of my preparations for ClueCon 2018 I upgraded my vMix license to the 4K edition. This gave me both 4K capability and remote control of the PTZ Optics NDI cameras that I rented from Tom Sinclair at Eastern Shore Broadcasting.

Suitably tooled up for the task, I’ve been able to give the little Brio more of a workout in recent months. What follows are my observations from daily use and a series of experiments.

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Lifesize Announces Icon 700 4K Video Conference End-Point

Lifesize has once again made a splash, announcing the Icon 700, their first 4K-capable video conference end-point.

Lifesize-Icon-700-Camera

They’re taking pre-orders for the device, which marries a 4K PTZ camera with a 20x zoom lens, with the ability to drive dual, 4K displays. Thus it delivers 4K participant video and 4K full-motion shared content at each location.

lifesize_icon_700_camera_back

Lifesize must be quite excited since the announcement happened even before they had marketing support for the device. Lacking for a spec sheet, I posed a couple of questions to their sales team. They report the device as leveraging H.264 baseline or high profile, with H.265 on the road map. Further, that 4k30 video requires 3 Mbps for each stream.

Yesterday they finally released a proper spec sheet from which we learn:

  • The device is SIP capable (no surprise there.)
  • Maximum 83 degree field of view.
  • Gigabit Ethernet.
  • 10 camera presets (near or far end.)
  • Dedicated RJ for the Lifesize phone provides power to the phone via POE.
  • Audio codec support includes; Opus, G.722.1, G.722, G.711 and Siren 7.

I’m a big fan of dog-fooding. That’s actually using the tech that’s being pitched. So I was happy to see that the promo video used in the launch of the Icon 700 are actually produced in 4K.

Lifesize began as a manufacturer of end-points and MCUs. They were founded by Craig Malloy, General Manager of Polycom’s Video Communication Division, who was frustrated at how slowly Polycom was moving into HD video conferencing.

In 2015 they made a major pivot from being a maker of traditional, installed MCU hardware to offering their MCU back-end as a cloud service.

This is NOT the first that I’ve heard of 4K video conferencing, but it is the first time I’ve seen a 4K-capable end-point appliance with a real PTZ camera. The Icon 700 lists for $7,500 USD.

El Gato CamLink: Now in 4K

Remember the El Gato CamLink? I reviewed it in the summer of 2017 when it initially launched.  This week it seems that El Gato, now a division of Corsair, has released an upgraded version, CamLink 4K.

The new 4K models appears identical to the older model, but now accommodates 4k30 sources. It’s listed direct from Corsair for $129. At present it shown on Amazon for a whopping $249. That’s surely a launch-time anomaly.

There’s still no on-board scaling or compression, so my earlier observations still hold true. If it does what you need, it’s a nice, low-cost way to capture video.

For some folks,  it simply won’t do what they need. Those folks are better served by capture devices from Magewell or Yuan. Those companies offer more capable, and most costly, 1080p and 4K capture devices.